I enjoyed so much Dava Sobel's previous books, "Longitude" and "Galileo's Daughter" (both of which were Hal's Picks), that I was eager to read her latest, which was judged "best science book" for Fall, 2011 by Publisher's Weekly.
Chances are that you have a computer mouse in your hand as you read these words. That object, now ubiquitous throughout the world, originated in the mid-1970's in Xerox's PARC laboratory in Palo Alto, which was a competitor to the famous Bell Telephone Labs in New Jersey.
If information about information is metadata, that's what we have here. As most of us are trying to drink from a firehose of information that clogs our eyes, ears, and every mailbox, James Glieck (author of "Chaos") helps us to step back to view the larger picture, with a longer perspective.
Isaac Newton was a complex man. Every student learns of (but few master) the laws bearing his name that govern the motion of objects from bullets to planets. Many know that the same great mind invented calculus along the way toward his Principia Mathematica.
The BCCE in 1994 was at Bucknell University, not far from the US home of Joseph Priestley, and I was one of a group that went there to see his place. While I knew some of his scientific contributions, I did not at the time appreciate how important a role he had played in the intellectual life of the nascent republic.
I bought "The Archimedes Codex" (the cloth cover edition, no less) because of the recommendation of Dick Pagni in the Summer Reading article in July, 2008. The book is available in paper beginning next month (January), but it is the kind of book that you might want to keep permanently in your library.
Lists of "the best" movies, books, sports stars, American Idols, etc. etc. are often intriguing and controversial. Science has its own lists, be they Nobelists or most-cited publications. Just a little while ago (could it really have been November, 2005?) Philip Ball's list of "elegant" chemistry experiments was my choice of the month.
When asked by one of our students about the significance of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) and his revolutionary (pun intended) theory of the solar system, most of us would recite the folkloric tale. A brilliant astronomer, dissatisfied with the inaccuracies of Ptolemy, devised a completely new model for the solar system.
There is supposedly a Chinese curse, "May he live in interesting times". While the origin of this phrase is apparently not really in China, it certainly applies to the life of one of the first modern chemists. Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier was a French nobleman who lived from 1743 until he was beheaded in 1794.